Just as in his inaugural speech, President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s message to the Defense Department revolved around unity.
In a visit to the Pentagon, the president emphasized the need for the United States to work with allies and partners around the world, the Defense Department to work with other agencies in government and for individual service members and DOD civilians to work with each other.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosted the president and Vice President Kamala Harris for the visit.
Biden said all members of the DOD “whether you’re newly enlisted, a career officer, a non-commissioned officer or a civilian policy expert, you’re essential to how we project our strength around the world, defend America’s interest and advance American leadership in the world.”
You are unquestionably part of the finest fighting force in the history of the world: You are warriors.”
President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
DOD personnel are often the face of America that people around the world see. “You all know as well as anyone, that our country is safer and stronger when we lead not just for the example of our power, but with the power of our example,” he said. “As your commander in chief, I will never hesitate to use force to defend the vital interest of America, the American people and our allies around the world when necessary. The central indispensable mission of the Department of Defense is to deter aggression from our enemies, and if required to, fight and win wars to keep America safe.”
But force should be a tool of last resort, not the first, he said. The Defense Department is essential for the work State Department diplomats do around the world. In fact, the president said, DOD personnel are not just the guarantors of U.S. security, but often diplomats themselves, he said.
He promised to work with Austin and leaders around the world “to bring a responsible end to wars that have dragged on for far too long, while continuing to ensure that terrorist threats cannot endanger the security of the American people.”
The 21st century requires leadership from the women and men of the DOD, he said, and there is hardly an area where they will not be called on to serve. This runs the gamut of helping curb the COVID-19 pandemic at home and abroad, to “addressing the real threats of climate change that are already costing us billions and impacts on our bases and our national security, or being part of an ongoing fight for racial justice,” he said. “You are essential to how we must rethink and reprioritize our security to meet the challenges of this century. “
DOD personnel must evaluate the risks and opportunities posed by emerging technologies. He called on the department to enhance DOD capabilities in cyberspace. “We must ensure that we are positioned to lead a new era of competition from the deep sea to outer space,” he said. “And we need to meet the growing challenges posed by China to keep peace and defend our interests in the Indo-Pacific and globally.”
The president praised the people who make up the department. “You are unquestionably part of the finest fighting force in the history of the world: You are warriors,” he said. “The work you do each and every day is vital to ensuring the American people, your families, friends and loved ones, are able to live in peace and security and growing prosperity.
“I will never ever … dishonor you. I will never disrespect you. I will never politicize the work you do.”